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« Box Office: Faster and Furiouser | Main | Superboyfriend »
Monday
May022011

Sal Mineo and Gay Hollywood

My friend Matthew, who wrote the book Boy Culture (which his blog is named after), recently interviewed the late Sal Mineo's boyfriend Courtney Burr, who is an acting teacher, in connection with a newish book on one of the most important Young Hollywood stars of the 1950s and 60s. The book in question was written by Michael Gregg Michaud. Burr had previously declined requests to help with other Mineo related books because he felt they were just after the sensationalistic aspects of the actor's legend (his sex life or his murder in the 70s -- famously none of the legendary trio from Rebel Without a Cause lived long enough to die of natural causes).

It's a lengthy interview for those of you who are interested in Sal Mineo or the difficulties for "exotic" actors or queer actors in showbiz history. The bit where Burr talks about Sal's career choices and if a comeback would have been in the cards if he hadn't been killed was interesting.

He was a wonderful director, but I think if he’d gotten the roles he wanted, like in The Godfather, which Al Pacino, a young, unknown, up-and-coming actor—it was certainly a role he could’ve played, and he said, "I’m ideal for that!" Midnight Cowboy...he was devasted—they wouldn't even see him. There were other roles he could’ve done and instead they started casting him as drug dealers…that Pancho Villa thing...I don’t mean that against Pancho Villa, but it just was not a great look for him.

He goes on to talk about those all-star epics of the time that faltering stars would appear in for the exposure and money not thinking about how it would damage their career. He likens it to has beens doing Dancing With the Stars today. Heh.

Sometimes Burr is quite honest and revealing. For instance he has a lot of interesting things to say about how Sal viewed himself (he preferred "artist" to "actor" because he also directed and drew and sang) and whether or not he would have come out in the modern era of stardom. He also claims that Sal Mineo's relationship with his Exodus co-star Jill Hayworth was an actually close friendship and sexual relationship though it's sometimes been described elsewhere as one of those infamous Old Hollywood publicity-created "relationships".

Other times the interviewee is frustratingly opaque with his stories. There's a confusing bit about Natalie Wood that makes her sound a bit homophobic though her friendships with gay men, famous and otherwise, are well known and documented. 

Farley Granger, Jane Powell, and Roddy McDowell. Old Hollywood pool party?

Though Burr didn't like the sensationalistic tone of most Sal Mineo books, he's okay with serving it up himself: Roddy McDowall in particular gets verbal smackdowns for being an evil "suburban" closet queen. Roddy is no longer around to defend himself of course but one this is factually certain from the stories: these two men CLEARLY did not get along.

There are also stories about working with Janet Gaynor and Rock Hudson in the interview so if you're interested in Old Hollywood, check it out.

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Reader Comments (5)

Either my self-diagnosed ADD wouldn't allow me the focus to get thru that interview, or that dude is just plain long-winded. :)

I watched Agora with Max Minghella the other night...I think he would be perfect as Sal Mineo in a biopic of his life.

May 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSoSueMe

SoSueMe -- Oh wow. you're right. Max would be a good match, at least visually, for that role.

May 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Read the book and really enjoyed it ... was not impressed with his lover.... his opinions were self-serving as far as i was concerned. I thought the same about Natalie Wood .. more than half her friends were gay ... sounds more like RJ was homophobic, as he has been much rumored to have had a "gay" lifestyle at one time... perhaps he did not want to associate himself with Mineo for that reason??? Who knows?

May 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Holy moly, Sal Mineo was gorgeous. Such an unfortunate end to his career. I've wondered if it isn't because of the gay thing. Or was it the "ethnic" thing? Same thing happened to George Chakiris I think.

Chakiris is still alive!!!

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrick
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